I’ve been noticing a lot of posts lately on Facebook that talk about recognition. They range from posts about awards won in juried exhibits, to posts that speak about the hope of having a lifetime of work publicly recognized while the artist is still living. I believe that the most important recognition comes from within, rather than from validation that comes from external sources such as shows, awards or name recognition (a.k.a. fame).
In the age of social media and instant gratification, it’s easy to get swept up in how many “likes” your work receives on Facebook, or favorites or retweets on Twitter. But what’s most important is that YOU like your work and recognize its worth with or without the accolades that come from others. I know, coming from someone who posts their work constantly and has a large following of friends and fans, that may seem like a contradiction. However, I use social media purely for the purpose of getting the word out about my workshops, courses and exhibitions. I rely on it as a marketing tool because I earn my living from my art. But, I don’t take it too seriously if every post does not get a flood of likes or shares. I am more interested in visually engaging potential students and collectors with my work, and in sharing a glimpse into my teaching style and work process. In other words, I’m confident in the fact that what I am sharing is useful in some way to my audience. I am not looking to that audience for validation as an artist.
I think there is a myth out there that says if you are happy with your work, you will never progress. I do not advocate complacency in any way, but I do believe that it is impossible to move forward and build upon strengths unless you recognize that you have them. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the fact that you are a good painter, this is particularly true if you also teach. Look at it this way, if you were a neurosurgeon, do you think patients would want you as their doctor if you felt you were not very good at your job? How can your students (or galleries or collectors) have confidence in you if you have no confidence in yourself.
So take stock of your strengths as an artist, be aware of them and don’t look to outside sources for validation of your work. Be aware of the skills that you still need to develop, and draw strength from the skills you have mastered. A little bit of confidence goes a long way.